Road testers Meet our type 1 cycling champs
Plunging headlong through barriers is all in a day’s work for Chris Williams and James Glasspool, who take type 1 diabetes all the way to the finish line
Have you ever thought (or been told) that a type 1 diagnosis meant that you couldn’t chase down your dreams? The members of Team Novo Nordisk are here to change your mind – and everyone else’s.
Every member of Team Novo Nordisk is a professional cyclist, racing on the gruelling international circuit. Every member of Team Novo Nordisk also has type 1 diabetes. Their goal? Aside from fame, glory and the chance to rock some very fetching lycra onesies, the team aims to inspire and empower people living with type 1 to pursue their own passion – regardless of diabetes.
Chris Williams, 34, from Brisbane, and James Glasspool, 25, from Adelaide, are two proud riders on the team. Here, they share their very different experiences of diabetes, how they turned pro and what they hope to impart to others.
When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
I was actually diagnosed in the middle of an amateur bike race at the age of 27. I collapsed at the end of a stage and was diagnosed with type 1 that afternoon. I was told endurance sport and cycling was a very difficult combination and I would need to stop for a while. I was devastated and in my mind, I’d already sold my bike. Fortunately, I had some friends who weren’t going to let me mope, and after working on a plan with my doctors, I was back on my bike within two days.
I was diagnosed in
2003. The doctor told me, “I’m sorry to inform you, but you have type 1 diabetes,” to which I replied, “Cool. What’s that?” While two of my grandparents had type 2, I knew nothing about type 1. After having things explained to me, the diagnosis became more shocking. My family and friends were all supportive, though, which helped get me back to my normal routine quickly.
How did you become a pro rider?
As a kid, all I wanted was to be a professional athlete.
One day I would dream of playing in the AFL, and then the next of getting a baggy green. When I started riding, I knew if I worked extremely hard, then my dreams of going pro might come to fruition. In 2014, I was offered a spot on Team Novo Nordisk’s development team. I felt I couldn’t pass up the offer.
I always loved the outdoors when I was growing up. As I got older, I started participating in amateur bike races, while working full-time as a teacher. By 2010, I was offered a guest spot on another team for a race in China. I performed well enough to earn a contract for the following year and I jumped at the opportunity because you only live once! Team
Novo Nordisk got in contact with me in 2012 and I’ve been with them ever since.
What do you like most about being part of the team?
We all have something extra in common with each other from living with type 1 diabetes. It makes the team very different from any other professional sports teams, and I think it’s very cool to be doing something that has never been done before.
I always love meeting young fans at races who share their stories of diabetes with us and tell us how the team is an inspiration to them. It gives us another reason to train hard and ride fast!
What advice do you have for youngsters with type 1 who want to pursue an athletic career?
When young people are diagnosed with diabetes, there can be a focus on the negatives. But diabetes does not have to stop you from chasing your dreams. My advice would be to work with your medical team on your diabetes management plan and then go live the life you want. Yes, it can be hard at times, but anything may be possible if you really want it.
The better you can manage your diabetes, the better your performance can be. Every athlete spends a lot of time and energy making sure all the little details are in order when it comes to competing. The same goes for us – diabetes just adds another layer for us to manage.